A tide of people swells outside the doors leading from immigration. Hired drivers hold signs for otherwise anonymous businessmen. Somebody’s mom clutches 3 Mylar “welcome home” greetings. She keeps looking at her watch, making the balloons bob up and down like buoys.
Stragglers from the last flight drip through the double doors. Those still waiting crane their necks, but nobody recognizes 9-year old Sarah. Her fresh, freckled face belies the last 8 hours alone on a transatlantic flight, pretending to sleep so the flight attendants would stop asking if she’s afraid.
“Do you see him?” her uniformed chaperone asks.
Shaking her head, Sarah’s braids are metronomes counting time across each shoulder. The uniform says, “Maybe he’s waiting over there,” and points to the mini-strip mall of newsagents and Starbucks. “Do you want to walk around?”
She pulls up the zipper on her Hello Kitty jacket. The smell of fresh coffee warms her, but she knows better than to ask for some. She had tried that on the plane, but the flight attendants just laughed. “You’re too young for that,” they said through fake smiles. “How ‘bout some hot chocolate instead?”
Daddy will let her have some coffee.
If he ever shows up.